The Red Sox knew the Toronto Blue Jays were a dangerous bunch heading into Tuesday.
For the last two years, the group led by young talent Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette lurked in the shadows of the American League East. When the Jays signed George Springer to a lucrative free-agent deal this past offseason — though he’s currently on the injured list — in addition to adding Marcus Semien, it showed that the Blue Jays were ready to compete. A 2020 playoff berth certainly moved that needle, too.
“They have a great team,” manager Alex Cora said. “They are where they want to be. It took them a while, but it feels like that young talent is finally all together.”
The Red Sox beat the Jays, 4-2, in the first of a two-game set at Fenway Park. Matt Barnes shut the door in the ninth, getting Cavan Biggio to fly out to Alex Verdugo in left as the tying run.
But it wasn’t an easy one.
The Red Sox hitters didn’t get to Hyun Jin Ryu in the first three innings, the Toronto starter needing only 29 pitches and surrendering just two hits. In the top of the fourth inning, Eduardo Rodriguez surrendered a light-tower solo shot to Bichette to give the Jays the lead.
Yet the Sox, as they have in this small sample of a season, have proven themselves not to be an easy out. Though Ryu came into the contest sporting a 1.89 ERA in his three starts, he hadn’t faced a lineup this hot, the Red Sox leading the majors in runs scored (100), batting average (.287), OPS (.817), and doubles (43).
As the lineup turned over, Christian Arroyo led off the bottom of the fourth with a single. The next hitter, J.D. Martinez, collected a single of his own, too. That set the stage for Bogaerts. Down 1-2 in the count, after Ryu had worked in a four-seamer and two cutters, he tried to beat Bogaerts with another four-seamer, this one high and tight.
Bogaerts was all over it, belting a no-doubter deep into the Fenway sky to put the Red Sox up, 3-1. It was his first homer of the season.
“It’s good to get the first one out of the way,” Bogaerts said. “I wasn’t trying to get anything. That whole inning Alex Cora predicted, to be honest with you.”
The manager, apparently, told his team that Martinez would get a hit and Bogaerts would homer.
“I was like, ‘You talking about me? I don’t have a home run at all,’ ” Bogaerts joked.
After a Christian Vázquez strikeout, Marwin Gonzalez doubled. With two out, Bobby Dalbec laced an RBI triple over Randal Grichuk’s head in center to make it 4-1.
What once looked like yet another dominant start for Ryu wasn’t. He was lifted after five innings, leaving his team to play from behind.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, worked through six innings, striking out six against two hits and a walk. This is the second time in Rodriguez’s career that he’s made three straight starts allowing no more than one walk. The last was August of 2015.
“I feel really good with everything, all my pitches,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like my body is right where it needs to be.”
The Sox allowed him to start the seventh, but a Grichuk solo shot to lead off the inning forced Cora to go to Matt Andriese. It was Rodriguez’s first start at Fenway in 19 months, and the first time he had pitched past the fifth this season.
That the Red Sox could win by such a convincing margin Monday, 11-4, to close out the Chicago White Sox, then turn around and win a nail-biter affirms another Cora prediction, this one dating back to spring training.
“I’m going to repeat myself. We have a good baseball team,” Cora said. “Very balanced. We made some good plays defensively today. We put together good at-bats. Seems like we just finish games right from the first pitch all the way to the end.”